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February 2, 2020

Rajeev Ram

Joe Salisbury

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


6-4, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Your journey, Rajeev, this was your 58th major.
RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, I've heard that.

Q. You finally have this trophy. How do you describe this journey? Does it feel sweeter that it took you a while?
RAJEEV RAM: I mean, yeah. When you say it like that, for sure. But I spent probably until really 2016 playing prioritizing singles. I happened to be ranked high enough to get into these slams, but it wasn't really something I worked at, so to speak.

It feels more like I started my doubles career in 2017 and onward. I don't feel like it's been since, I don't know when my first one was, maybe 2007 or '08, somewhere in there. I don't feel like it's been since then that I've been trying and trying. Obviously I've played them.

Yeah, I've been at it a while for sure. To actually finally get one is great. But it doesn't feel like it's been the same level of intensity as it has been last three or four years.

Q. Joe, this is all new for you. Were you nervous today? You played so well all the way through.
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I was nervous. I feel like it's almost been worse since we've had the two days off in between, quite a long buildup to the final, a long time to think about it, all the possibilities, how I'm going to feel, et cetera.

Yeah, I've been quite nervous the last couple days. But then actually today the closer it got to the match, I almost felt more calm. Once we got on court, I didn't really feel that nervous. Almost felt like that once we get on court, that's when we sort of feel more comfortable. We knew we'd just go out there, do our thing. We were going to do our best. We were ready to go. Whatever happened happened.

So, yeah, I wasn't expecting to sort of play as well as we did, especially how I was feeling leading up to it.

Q. Joe, at what stage of your career did you start thinking of winning a Grand Slam, you can win a Grand Slam? How did your career progress for you to get to that level and start thinking that way?
JOE SALISBURY: It probably wasn't until Wimbledon a couple years ago, made the semifinals. I mean, that was only my second-ever Grand Slam, playing that. Before that, I was thinking, yeah, I could be a good doubles player. Wasn't really sure how high I could get, how well I could do.

I think once I did that at Wimbledon, then I kind of realized the level that I could play. Yeah, it was possible to win a Grand Slam.

Q. Rajeev, can you give us a view on what you think makes Joe such a good player?
RAJEEV RAM: Oh, man. It's quite a lot of things actually. He doesn't show it outwardly, but he's incredibly competitive, especially on the tennis court. I think just his ability to rise to the occasion is pretty special. Obviously he's an incredible athlete, too. I think those two things for me stick out.

But I think one thing that's helped us is we've become really good partners to each other. I think when we're nervous in tough situations, we're not afraid to say what we think. There's a bit of trust there.

Yeah, he's taken to that, as both of us have, really well. His open-mindedness has been pretty good.

Q. Rajeev, what were the circumstances of you not defending your mixed doubles?
RAJEEV RAM: I actually got a little bit sick in the off-season, caught a bug, was sort of laid up for a couple weeks. Didn't have the off-season I would have liked.

So I came to Australia very unprepared, to the ATP Cup, didn't feel great. Made a call there that it wasn't just going to be good for my health or either of my partners, so I just decided that playing the extra event wasn't going to be good. Maybe I might have to stick with that decision now for the rest of my career.

JOE SALISBURY: Get sick in the off-season more (laughter).

Q. Had you been healthy, would you have played the mixed and the doubles?
RAJEEV RAM: I was planning on it, yeah. I made the decision pretty early. It was like a week into the year that I wasn't going to do that.

Q. Rajeev, you came all guns blazing. What was your game plan coming into the final?
RAJEEV RAM: I mean, I think, like Joe said, we knew we were ready. We were playing pretty well the whole time. We had a tough match in the semis. I think getting through that the way we did helped us.

We made it about us, about our energy, our attitude, our competitiveness, sort of let that be the leading and driving force to let our tennis shine through.

I think first set, yeah, we had so many chances. I think we had 10 breakpoints and we only got one. I saw that stat actually flash across the thing. Right from the get-go I just felt like we were both really on it. Joe, I don't know how many returns he missed, but it wasn't many. He was leading us nicely on the return side.

I think no specific game plan, per se, but just making sure that we're having the attitude and energy that we needed.

Q. Joe, what do you think your story possibly can tell other British players in terms of the fact that you kind of had to work very hard in obscurity for quite a few years to get to this level at 27?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I mean, I guess it shows even if you're not one of the top juniors winning all the junior Grand Slams or breaking through when you're 19, 20, that you can still have a very good career.

Obviously it's still early days for me. Yeah, I think it should give a lot of belief to other players that if you keep working at it and you have the right support. I mean, we've had an amazing team around us, amazing coaches to work with. Yeah, we've worked really hard.

But that, yeah, you can do it.

Q. Joe, you're going to be world No. 4 tomorrow. Getting to No. 1, is that a short-term goal? Have you really thought about it?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, that's a fairly short-term goal. I think, yeah, we kind of set some goals at the end of last year. One of them for this year as a team was to win a Grand Slam, the other one was to finish the year as the No. 1 pair.

Yeah, that is the goal for this year.

Q. Joe, your mum, the sacrifices she's made for you in your tennis career...
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, my mum, my whole family, they've done so much for me. Obviously financially when I was younger, paying for all my coaching, all my travel. I mean, my mum and dad gave up half their weekends driving me to tournaments, paying for me to go to university in America. Then after that my first couple years after I finished in college, I mean, I wasn't earning any money. They were paying for my coaching, for my travel, for everything.

Yeah, they always gave me not just the financial support but also the belief and I guess emotional support, as well. They've always believed in me really strongly. They've kind of always left it up to me what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to keep playing, whether I wanted to keep doing it or not. They've always kept believing in me.

Q. What are their names?
JOE SALISBURY: Carolyn and Matthew.

Q. Rajeev, I believe you grew up in Monterey. Could you talk a little bit about that, high school.
RAJEEV RAM: You don't have it right. Sorry. I grew up in Carmel, but in Indiana, not California, which is nowhere close to Monterey.

What was it like? Midwest in America. Not a hotbed of tennis at all. I lived there since I was 12 years old. So, yeah, my tennis experience was a bit different than most. I didn't ever go to any tennis academies or anything like that. Had the same coach since I was 16 years old. Tennis was a glorified hobby until I was a late teen. I did pretty well in the U.S. in the juniors, but I never traveled like some of these other players do.

I took different steps. I went to college for a short time. After I got to my late teens, I felt like I could make a career out of playing tennis.

Q. Are you in California now?
RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, my wife and I do live in California now. Indiana is still home for me, so...

Q. Do you spend time in Walnut Creek?

Q. Can you talk about that and your connection with Craig Tiley.
RAJEEV RAM: We lived there since we got married. Both our parents live in Indiana. We spend a fair bit of time there, especially when the tennis season is in that part of the country.

We enjoy our time, have a great group of friends out there, a nice club that I practice at. I practice a lot with the Berkeley team, the Cal-Berkeley team.

Craig Tiley, we go back a long way. He recruited me when he was a college coach at the University of Illinois. I've known him probably since I was 17 years old. Won my first slam here last year at the mixed. I had a picture of us on our recruiting trip that I found in my mom's closet.

We've had a relationship for a really long time. Been amazing to see the things he's been able to do at every job he seems to get.

Q. People waking up at home to this news, any particular congratulations on your phone that particularly touched you? Any plans for the prize money?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I've had a lot of messages, most of which I haven't seen yet. I've spoken to a few people, couple family members, and a couple of coaches back home: Justin Sherring and also my former coach and good friend Tom Corey (phonetic). I also spoke to my sister.

Yeah, had a lot of messages which, yeah, I haven't read yet. I'll get through to them eventually.

Q. The prize money? London property market?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I haven't thought about it too much. Tried to stay in the moment, not think about what would happen if we win. I think that's the next thing on the list, yeah, looking to buy a place sometime this year.

Q. Joe, your thoughts on the two Australians, whether you think they could be a good doubles opponent in the months and years to come?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I mean, obviously they're really good players. Don't get to the final without being a great doubles team. They beat some of the top teams, the seeds.

I know they haven't played that much on the main tour. They've been mainly playing challengers and singles as well. They won loads of challengers. I'm sure they'll play some on the main tour now.

Yeah, they can definitely be a really good team. I'm sure we'll see them rising up the rankings.

Q. Where are the Olympics in your minds this year? How does this title perhaps change things for you?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I mean, I would love to play the Olympics. I think now that it's if you're a top 10, you're guaranteed to play and choose your partner. Obviously that's not guaranteed yet. I need to stay in the top 10, whenever it is, June, July.

But, yeah, that's definitely a goal of mine, something I would really, really enjoy doing.

RAJEEV RAM: Had a great experience last time at the Olympics. Representing your country is something that's really special. So I think I'm sort of in the same boat as Joe.

It's a little bit off as far as time. We still have some time before that. It's certainly something that's a highlight of the year for both of us I think this year.

Q. Joe, your mum was here all the way through. Is she a calming influence? Gets really excited? How is she behind the scenes?
JOE SALISBURY: She's mostly calming. I think probably on the inside she's not. She probably gets very excited, emotional, nervous, like most mums would.

But, no, it's been great to have her here the whole time. It's her first time coming out to Australia, kind of spending a long-ish time at tournaments with me.

Yeah, it's been really nice to have kind of some away time from the tennis, spending some more time with her. That's been great.

Q. Haven't been making her do your washing?
JOE SALISBURY: I can't say I haven't (smiling). I wouldn't say I've been making her. She has volunteered a few times.

RAJEEV RAM: You didn't turn it down?

JOE SALISBURY: I didn't turn it down, no.

Q. Rajeev, talk about your team a little bit more. Over the last two years you've had your personal challenges. How does this win make everything complete for you?
RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, the last years have been tough for me. My father passed away in April of last year with pancreatic cancer. He was the one that started me in tennis. Played every day that I can remember from when I could remember things till I was about 12 years old.

When something like that happens, it shakes you pretty good. I'm an only child. Coming from the cultural background that I do, family is quite tight. We did a lot of things together. It was hard, for sure.

But I got lucky to be married to a great person. We got married in 2016. She comes from a big family. They've been great support for my mom and I both. My mom was actually at the ATP Cup in Perth.

Yeah, it's been challenging, but sometimes that stuff, when it happens, makes these moments be a little bit more sweet. Obviously I wish all the world that my dad could have seen this. I think I've done well to make him proud hopefully, yeah.

Q. Joe, you were talking about taking a while to get where you wanted to be. Were there moments where you thought it wasn't going to happen?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I mean, I think during my juniors, I barely played for sort of three years leading up to college, when I had glandular fever, a lot of injuries. Then I was going to college, not really sure what I wanted to do, if I wanted to play professionally after. Then I decided I did want to give it a go.

Then, yeah, for the first sort of couple of years after, there were definitely times where I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it, wasn't making any money, wasn't making a living out of it.

Yeah, even when I made the switch to doubles, still spent some time playing the challengers, maybe not getting up the rankings as quickly as I wanted to up until the Wimbledon semifinal.

Yeah, there were definitely some times where I guess I questioned whether I did want to keep doing it. But I think, yeah, deep down I've always known that I really did want to. If I could do it, if there was a chance I could do it, make a career out of it, it is what I love doing. Definitely glad that I kept going.

Q. With the glandular fever, some of the fatigue you had playing singles, you proved you're able to train hard. Is it still something you have to keep an eye on, your workload?
JOE SALISBURY: Yeah, I still keep an eye on it. It's not been as big of an issue the last couple years. There are still times when, yeah, I don't feel as good as I would hope to. So, yeah, I still monitor it.

But it's definitely not -- it's not been a big issue since the switch to doubles, not having to do as much kind of endurance training, I guess, which was the main thing that kind of would wipe me out.

So, yeah, it's definitely been better. It's still something I have to be a little bit careful with.

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